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Purpose Logos are a critical component of brand aesthetics. Frequently companies redesign their logos, and many redesigns result in more rounded logos. How do such redesigns affect consumers' brand attitudes? The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of brand commitment on consumer response to logo shape redesign. Design/methodology/approach This research uses a field experiment with 632 respondents and examines two athletic shoe brands: New Balance and Adidas. Findings The greater the degree of change in the roundedness of a previously angular logo, the more likely it is that strongly committed consumers will evaluate the redesigned logo more negatively (in terms of brand attitude). Such logo evaluations, in turn, mediate the joint effect of logo redesign and commitment on overall brand attitude. Conversely, weakly committed consumers react positively to such changes. Research limitations/implications The literature on aesthetics and brand attitude are combined to show that not all consumers view changes in brand elements such as logos similarly. Strongly committed consumers view these changes negatively; weakly committed consumers view them positively. An information‐processing approach provides the underlying theory for this finding. Thus, logo evaluation partially mediates this change in brand attitude, but it does not fully explain the change in brand attitude after exposure to logo redesign. Practical implications Strong brands gain strength by developing a base of strongly committed customers. Attempts to change brand elements – such as logo redesigns – can affect customers differently depending on whether they are strongly committed, mildly committed, or not committed at all. Thus firms attempting to change brand elements, particularly their logos, should be fully aware of the potentially negative impact on their most important customers – those having the strongest brand commitment. Originality/value To one's knowledge very little research has examined the relationship between logo redesign and brand attitude. Henderson et al. 's call to examine consumer responses to changes in design stimuli is followed. Importantly, the study is the first to show that visual elements of a brand (e.g. logo) can differentially impact consumer response based on brand commitment to such an extent that strongly committed customers react more negatively than weakly committed customers to redesigned logos.
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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1998809
Do logo redesigns help or hurt your brand?
The role of brand commitment
Michael F. Walsh
West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA
Karen Page Winterich
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA, and
Vikas Mittal
Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA
Abstract
Purpose Logos are a critical component of brand aesthetics. Frequently companies redesign their logos, and many redesigns result in more rounded
logos. How do such redesigns affect consumers’ brand attitudes? The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of brand commitment on consumer
response to logo shape redesign.
Design/methodology/approach This research uses a field experiment with 632 respondents and examines two athletic shoe brands: New Balance
and Adidas.
Findings The greater the degree of change in the roundedness of a previously angular logo, the more likely it is that strongly committed consumers
will evaluate the redesigned logo more negatively (in terms of brand attitude). Such logo evaluations, in turn, mediate the joint effect of logo redesign
and commitment on overall brand attitude. Conversely, weakly committed consumers react positively to such changes.
Research limitations/implications The literature on aesthetics and brand attitude are combined to show that not all consumers view changes in
brand elements such as logos similarly. Strongly committed consumers view these changes negatively; weakly committed consumers view them
positively. An information-processing approach provides the underlying theory for this finding. Thus, logo evaluation partially mediates this change in
brand attitude, but it does not fully explain the change in brand attitude after exposure to logo redesign.
Practical implications Strong brands gain strength by developing a base of strongly committed customers. Attempts to change brand elements
such as logo redesigns can affect customers differently depending on whether they are strongly committed, mildly committed, or not committed at
all. Thus firms attempting to change brand elements, particularly their logos, should be fully aware of the potentially negative impact on their most
important customers those having the strongest brand commitment.
Originality/value To one’s knowledge very little research has examined the relationship between logo redesign and brand attitude. Henderson
et al.
s call to examine consumer responses to changes in design stimuli is followed. Importantly, the study is the first to show that visual elements of a
brand (e.g. logo) can differentially impact consumer response based on brand commitment to such an extent that strongly committed customers react
more negatively than weakly committed customers to redesigned logos.
Keywords Brand identity, Brand loyalty, Logos
Paper type Research paper
An executive summary for managers and executive
readers can be found at the end of this article.
In 2003, Apple Computer announced it was recoloring its
logo from red to brushed silver. Within hours of Apple’s
announcement, more than 200 people had signed an online
petition demanding Apple’s return to the old logo (Kahney,
2003). In contrast, the recent redesigns of Walmart’s logo
elicited less customer response (Benton County Daily Record,
2008; Edwards, 2008). Why might that be? One explanation
may be that although Apple has relatively fewer customers,
most of their customers have very strong brand commitment,
whereas Walmart customers, although there are many, have
lower levels of brand commitment. More intriguingly, how
and why does a slight change to a brand’s visual elements (e.g.
logo color or shape) affect consumers so differently,
depending on their levels of brand commitment? What are
the implications for brand attitude and consequent branding
strategies?
We explore these questions theoretically and empirically.
Drawing on the literature in aesthetics and consumer
information processing, we hypothesize the impact of logo-
redesign on logo evaluation and brand attitude. More
importantly, we develop a theory about the moderating role
of consumer brand commitment. We then conduct a large-
scale experiment to test our theoretical predictions.
Brand aesthetics and logo re-design
As a brand element, a logo can be defined as a graphic
representation or image that triggers memory associations of
the target brand. Tom Peters (1999, p. 41) recognized the
importance of a visually strong logo:
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/1061-0421.htm
Journal of Product & Brand Management
19/2 (2010) 7684
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 1061-0421]
[DOI 10.1108/10610421011033421]
76
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1998809
Humans think visually. A picture is really worth a million words. And great
brands have readily identifiable icons just ask Nike or Apple or Shell
strong simple images that connect with customers.
Logos are a prominent feature of a diverse array of direct and
indirect communication vehicles ranging from packaging,
promotional materials, and advertising to uniforms, business
cards, and letterheads (Bottomly and Doyle, 2006;
Henderson and Cote, 1998; Janiszewski and Meyvis, 2001).
To this end, firms have also started to pay substantial
attention to brand aesthetics, which encompasses an
evaluation of the visual elements of a brand such as
product, package, and logo designs (Burrows, 2008; Business
Week, 2007; Scanlon, 2006). Firms such as Perception
Research Services reported conducting hundreds of design
and aesthetics studies every year for various clients including
Kraft, Nestle, Wrigley, Target, and General Mills (Mininni,
2005). Interestingly, among the various brand elements
examined, brand logo (apart from product and package
design) is the most salient visual brand element for customers
(Mininni, 2005). Not surprisingly, one in 50 companies will
redesign their logo in a given year (Spaeth, 2002), and at
considerable expense. For instance, UPS spent $20 million to
introduce a new logo in 2003 (Griswold, 2003), while Xerox
invested multimillions to update its logo (Xerox, 2008). Given
the expense involved, firms would benefit by knowing which
customers are likely to respond more or less favorably to such
changes in their logo. Answers to these questions, though
important, have not received systematic scrutiny. This is true
despite some research conducted to systematically categorize
various logo design elements (see Henderson and Cote, 1998;
Henderson et al., 2003, for exceptions).
Henderson and Cote (1998) provided a systematic typology
to classify and study the visual elements of a logo, including
the concepts of naturalness, harmony, elaborateness,
parallelism, repetition, proportion, and shape. Madden et al.
(2000) found that colors such as blue and white, when
included in a logo, share similar meaning across countries,
while colors such as black and red have considerably different
meanings and associations. Klink (2003) found that brand
names with front vowels and fricatives (the letters s, f, v, and
c) were more closely related to lighter-colored brand names
and angular brand logos. Later, Henderson et al. (2003)
examined how customers from different cultures perceive
different logo elements. A cross-sectional survey showed that
consumers in China and Singapore perceived natural and
harmonious logo designs more positively, whereas consumers
in Western cultures perceived abstract and asymmetric logo
designs more positively. The role of elaborateness as a primary
driver of consumer perceptions of logos, followed by
naturalness and harmony, was verified in another study as
well (Henderson et al., 2004). Furthermore, it was found that
the roundedness of a logo was a canonical feature of
perceptions of logo harmony and naturalness. In particular,
the more rounded the elements of a logo (as opposed to
angular or sharp), the more it was viewed as being
harmonious and natural. Thus, both from a theoretical and
empirical perspective, the roundedness of a logo is a key
design element.
Interestingly, practitioners also view the roundedness of
logo elements (as opposed to angular and sharp elements) as
an emergent trend that is likely to endure. We interviewed 12
leading logo designers from multiple firms. The firms
included the four largest corporate-identity firms as
identified by the American Institute of Graphic Artists
(AIGA):
1 Interbrand;
2 Landor and Associates;
3 Lippencott and Margulies; and
4 Siegel and Gale.
We also included six design firms from the mid-Atlantic area
and a northeastern art institute. All interviewees (100
percent) indicated a trend toward increased use of rounded
shapes for logos. One designer commented, “[The tendency is
toward] the use of more round-like shape. I see logos having a
more bulbous design. Another designer stated, “There is a
movement toward traditional design. I think this is a response
to the ‘go-go’ craziness of the dot com era. The designers
also discussed brand globalization and explained that more
brands are moving into Asian countries where roundedness is
preferred to angularity in shapes (Zhang et al., 2006).
Finally, to verify that roundedness was indeed a logo-design
element worth investigating, we analyzed Logos Redesigned
(Carter, 2005), a collection of 192 recent logo redesigns. Two
coders classified each redesigned logo as:
1 no shape change;
2 more angular shape from being initially rounded; or
3 more rounded shape from being initially angular
(87 percent initial agreement, differences resolved
through discussion).
Results indicated that 50 percent of all logos had changed
shape. Among logos that had changed shape, 68 percent were
more rounded; only the remaining 32 percent became more
angular ( p , 0.05).
Thus, from a design perspective, we decided to examine
this particular logo element rounded shape as our
measure of the extent of logo redesign. In other words, in our
empirical study we varied the extent of roundness of the logo
to study its impact on logo evaluations and brand attitude
among consumers.
Changes in logo shape: theory
Berlyne’s (1960) seminal work identified the psychological
processes relating the aesthetic dimensions of stimuli to the
perceiver’s responses. Empirical research in aesthetics
(Arnheim, 1974; Aronoff et al., 1992; Berlyne, 1976) has
shown that shape plays an important role in perceptions.
Applying those ideas to marketing, research has examined
how visual elements of the marketing mix such as advertising
(Bloch, 1995) and new-product design (Page and Herr, 2002;
Veryzer and Hutchinson, 1998) affect customer reactions.
More recently, Zhang et al. (2006) examined the effect of
product shape on product evaluations among collectivist and
individualistic cultures. Despite the descriptive research on
logos and attempts to classify logo-design elements, little if
any research has systematically examined how changes in
logos affect consumer attitudes.
Research has shown that viewers clearly differentiate
between two versions rounded and angular of the same
stimulus. They interpret the rounded version of a stimulus to
be a compromise between the focal stimulus and its
surroundings (Arnheim, 1974; Hogg, 1969). Typically,
roundedness is associated with approachableness,
Do logo redesigns help or hurt your brand?
Michael F. Walsh, Karen Page Winterich and Vikas Mittal
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 19 · Number 2 · 2010 · 76 84
77
friendliness, and harmony (Berlyne, 1960; 1976). In contrast,
angularity is associated with energy, toughness, and strength.
Based on the visual aesthetics literature, we argue that
consumers will clearly differentiate and perceive a change
based on differences in the angularity and roundedness of a
logo.
Note, we do not argue that one shape is better than the
other. We simply argue that if an original logo was more
angular and became more rounded, consumers would see that
the logo was different. Our main goal, therefore, is to examine
how the magnitude of change in logo affects subsequent
consumer evaluations. Next, we theoretically examine
whether the magnitude of change in logo will similarly affect
consumers based on their level of brand commitment.
Brand commitment: a moderator of consumer response
to logo redesign
Brand commitment can be viewed as “an enduring desire to
maintain a valued relationship” with the brand (Moorman
and Zaltman, 1992, p. 316). Brand commitment develops
over time (Keller, 2005). Consumers having strong levels of
commitment, who have nurtured strong relationships with
their brand, tend to see strong connections between
themselves and the brand (Escalas and Bettman, 2003) and
consider the brands to be an integral part of their lives
(Fournier, 1998). Visually, brand logos convey a very different
meaning to consumers with strong brand commitment than to
consumers with moderate or no brand commitment. This is
particularly true because, as a visual cue, brand logos can
become the basis for triggering brand-related associations and
thoughts in consumer memory (Keller, 2005). To the extent
that the brand associations and their strength emerging from
the brand logo vary based on commitment, we expect a
change in logo to differentially affect consumers based on
their commitment to the brand.
We argue that strongly committed consumers are likely to
view logo changes as threatening their relationship with the
brand (Ahluwalia et al., 2000). Those with strong brand
commitment will see the original brand logo and the
associations as representing themselves (Escalas and
Bettman, 2003) and the integral relationship they have with
the brand (Fournier, 1998). They are likely to view a change in
the logo, which affects these associations, as threatening their
self-brand connections (Escalas and Bettman, 2003) and
relationships (Fournier, 1998). Consequently, such consumers
will be negatively disposed to the logo change and likely to
evaluate the logo negatively. This logic is consistent with an
information-processing perspective (Ahluwalia et al., 2000).
Accordingly, information that is inconsistent (i.e. the
redesigned logo with rounded shape) with the original brand-
self concept motivates consumers to defend the relationship by
evaluating the new information (i.e. redesigned logos)
negatively. We argue that the effect should be greater for the
strongly committed based on the degree of change.
Conversely, for consumers with weak brand commitment, a
changed logo would not be as meaningful. Such customers are
unlikely to see the brand as an integral part of their being and
should have little or no personal relationship with the brand.
They are likely to perceive a change in the logo’s shape as
novel, which will lead them to evaluate the logo more
positively (Kohlia and Suri, 2002). Thus the redesign will
generate positive attitudes about the brand. In particular, the
greater the change in brand logo shape, the more positive the
attitude toward the brand for consumers with weak brand
commitment. Therefore:
H1. Brand commitment will moderate the influence of
change in the roundedness of a logo shape on brand
attitude. Specifically, for consumers with strong brand
commitment, brand attitude will decline as the degree
of change in logo shape increases. Conversely, for
consumers with weak brand commitment, brand
attitude will increase as the degree of change in logo
shape increases.
Regarding the relationship between logo evaluation and brand
attitude, we argue that strongly committed consumers will
evaluate logo shape changes more negatively, and their
reaction will be reflected in lower brand attitudes. This is
likely because logos, as a central visual element of the overall
brand, will trigger corresponding brand associations. Thus, if
consumers evaluate the logo negatively, their evaluation
should also trigger similarly valenced (i.e. negative) brand
associations and lead to more negative brand attitudes. To the
extent that strongly committed consumers are likely to view
the redesigned logo negatively, more negative brand
associations will be triggered, leading to more negative
brand attitude. In contrast, more positive brand associations
among those with weak brand commitment should lead to
more positive brand attitude in response to a logo redesign.
Based on this, we posit that logo evaluation will mediate the
joint effect of brand commitment and degree of logo shape
change on brand attitude. Thus:
H2. Logo evaluation will affect brand evaluations.
Consequently, logo evaluation will mediate the effect
of brand commitment and logo shape redesign on
brand attitude.
The model underlying the two hypotheses is visually
represented in Figure 1. To test these hypotheses, we
conducted a study using athletic shoe brand logos. We
conducted a series of pretests to validate that the selected
brands exhibited a wide distribution of consumer
commitment and that the survey participants would perceive
the degree of change in the experimental stimuli as intended.
The research design, measures, and results of these pretests
are not presented here, but full results are available from the
first author.
Figure 1 Conceptual model: logo redesign and brand attitude
Do logo redesigns help or hurt your brand?
Michael F. Walsh, Karen Page Winterich and Vikas Mittal
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 19 · Number 2 · 2010 · 76 84
78
Study
The study design featured a 3 (degree of change: none,
moderate, considerable) X 3 (commitment toward the brand:
strong, moderate, weak) between-subjects design with
commitment as a measured variable. We selected two brands
of athletic shoes, Adidas and New Balance, based on past
research (Ahluwalia et al., 2000) showing the brands are highly
relevant to our sample of undergraduate students. A
professional graphic designer modified the shape of the brand
logos using two designs per logo: moderately redesigned and
considerably redesigned. Pretests confirmed that respondents
perceived the degree of change the designer intended. (Copies
of the designs are available upon request from the first author).
A total of 632 undergraduates at a large US university
participated in the study for extra credit. Among them, 49
percent were males, and the average age was 21.86 years
(SD ¼ 3:41). Neither age nor gender were significant
covariates in subsequent analyses and will not be discussed
further. Measures included scales for brand commitment,
brand attitude, and logo evaluation. (See Table I for full
details on measures used in the study.) In terms of procedure,
students were told they were participating in a study about
athletic shoes. Each participant was given a booklet that
showed the base logo. After viewing the logo, they completed
the brand commitment scale and brand attitude scale (pre-
redesigned logo exposure). This study measures brand
attitude twice before and after exposure to the logo
design. This was done to measure the change in brand
attitude awareness after exposure to the logo design.
However, to avoid methodological issues with using
difference scores (Edwards, 1995), post-exposure brand
attitude was used as the dependent variable and pre-
exposure brand attitude was included as a covariate in the
model.
Next, participants viewed the redesigned logo. Because this
was a between-subjects factor, each participant saw only one
version (no change, moderate change, considerable change)
of the redesigned logo. Then respondents completed a brand-
attitude scale (post-redesigned logo exposure). Finally, they
provided demographic and product-ownership data.
Results
An ANCOVA was conducted with brand attitude toward the
post-redesigned logo as the dependent variable. The
independent variables included brand commitment, degree
of change, and their interaction. The covariates were brand,
prior brand ownership, gender, age, and pre-exposure brand
attitude. Including the brand and prior brand ownership
ensured that consumers’ past associations were accounted for
in the analysis. Similarly, pre-exposure brand attitude was
included to ensure that any carryover effect of the brand
exposure was accounted for. In other words, the observed
effects can be attributed only to the change in the logo and
consumer commitment to the brand.
The overall model was significant (F
10;621
¼ 50:73,
p , 0:05), as was the effect of commitment
(F
1;630
¼ 173:23, p , 0:05) and the effect of degree of
change (F
2;629
¼ 25:74, p , 0:05). In support of H1, the
commitment X degree of change interaction was statistically
significant (F
2;629
¼ 42:63, p , 0:05). As expected, pre-
exposure brand attitude had a significant effect
(F
1;630
¼ 209:04, p , 0:05). No other covariate was
statistically significant. Results are shown in Table II.
Respondents were categorized as strongly, moderately, and
weakly committed using a tertiary split (see Ahluwalia et al.,
2000). The mean post-exposure brand attitude for each cell is
shown in Figure 2. A post hoc test for a linear trend for
strongly committed consumers was significant
(F
1;167
¼ 81:82, p , 0:05). Results indicated that among
Table I List of measures used in studies
Measure Description
Brand commitment Beatty
et al.
’s (1988) brand commitment scale, comprising the following three items, was used (1 ¼ strongly disagree,
9 ¼ strongly agree):
if (brand) were not available, it would make little difference to me if I had to choose another brand
(reverse scored); I consider myself to be highly loyal to (brand); When another brand is on sale, I will generally purchase it rather
than (brand) (reverse scored)
. The items had adequate internal reliability (Study 1:
a
¼ 0.88). The items were averaged to
create a single measure. On this scale, higher scores indicate stronger brand commitment. We note that brand commitment and
brand attitude are significantly, but not highly correlated (
r
2
¼ 0.0006,
p
, 0.001)
Brand attitude Brand attitude was measured using a four-item, semantic differential scale developed by Ahluwalia
et al.
(2000). Measured on a
nine-point scale, the items are good/bad, beneficial/harmful, desirable/undesirable, and nice/awful. The items displayed
adequate internal consistency for both the pre- and post-exposure brand attitude in both studies (
a
pre
¼ 0.93;
a
post
¼ 0.96).
The items were averaged such that higher scores indicate more favourable brand attitude. To avoid methodological issues with
using difference scores (Edwards, 1995), post-exposure brand attitude is used as the dependent variable and pre-exposure
brand attitude is included as a covariate in the model
Logo evaluation Logo evaluation was measured using the five-item rating scale developed by Henderson and Cote (1998). The five items, each
measured on a seven-point semantic differential scale, are: like/dislike, good/bad, distinctive/not distinctive, interesting/not
interesting, and high/low quality. The items had adequate internal reliability (
a
¼ 0.95) and were averaged to create a mean
logo evaluation score
Brand The brand is included as a covariate in the model (0 ¼ Adidas, 1 ¼ New Balance) since it is between-subjects variable. We
first ran the analysis including brand as an interaction, but no interaction effects were found. It is therefore included as a
covariate
Ownership Respondents indicated their usage of the studied athletic shoes. This variable was coded “1” if owned, “0” if never owned the
brand whose logo they evaluated
Do logo redesigns help or hurt your brand?
Michael F. Walsh, Karen Page Winterich and Vikas Mittal
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 19 · Number 2 · 2010 · 76 84
79
strongly committed consumers, post-exposure brand attitude
was not statistically different for the no-change and moderate-
change conditions (M
nochange
¼ 2:77 vs M
moderatechange
¼ 2:63;
t ¼ 0:73, ns). However, post-exposure brand attitude for the
moderate-change condition was significantly greater than that
of the considerable-change condition (M
moderatechange
¼ 2:63
vs M
considerablechange
¼ 1:48; t ¼ 5:34, p , 0:05), indicating
that brand attitude declined as the degree of logo shape
redesign increased.
Among weakly committed consumers, a test for a linear
trend was statistically significant (F
1;253
¼ 144:57, p , 0:05).
Specifically, among weakly committed consumers, post-
exposure brand attitude for the no-change condition was
significantly less than that of the moderate-change condition
(M
nochange
¼ 3:15 vs M
moderatechange
¼ 3:86; t ¼ 24:30,
p , 0:05). Furthermore, post-exposure brand attitude for
the moderate-change condition was significantly less than that
of the considerable-change condition (M
moderatechange
¼ 3:86
vs M
considerablechange
¼ 4:77; t ¼ 25:16, p , 0:05). These
results fully support H1.
We also compared cell means for strongly and weakly
committed consumers within each degree of change
condition. Among those in the no-change condition, the
post-exposure brand attitude was relatively similar for weakly
and strongly committed consumers (M
strong
¼ 2:77 vs
M
weak
¼ 3:15; t ¼ 21:71, p . 0:05). The post-exposure
brand attitude in the no-change condition for moderately
committed consumers was significantly higher than both
strongly (M
moderate
¼ 3:74 vs M
strong
¼ 2:77; t ¼ 4:57,
p , 0:05) and weakly committed consumers
(M
moderate
¼ 3:74 vs M
weak
¼ 3:15; t ¼ 3:26, p , 0:05). For
those in the moderate-change condition, the post-exposure
brand attitude of strongly committed consumers was
significantly less than that of weakly committed consumers
(M
strong
¼ 2:63 vs M
weak
¼ 3:86; t ¼ 2 6:41, p . 0:05), as
well as moderately committed consumers (M
strong
¼ 2:63 vs
M
moderate
¼ 4:01; t ¼ 26:89, p . 0:05).
For participants in the considerable-change condition, post-
exposure brand attitude was significantly lower for strongly
than for weakly committed consumers (M
strong
¼ 1:48 vs
M
weak
¼ 4:77; t ¼ 216:87, p . 0:05), as expected. The post-
exposure brand attitude of strongly committed consumers was
also lower than that of moderately committed consumers in
the considerable-change condition (M
strong
¼ 1:48 vs
M
moderate
¼ 4:17; t ¼ 213:61, p . 0:05). These means,
shown in Figure 2, fully supported the hypothesized
moderating effect.
We expected that logo evaluations would mediate the
moderating effect of brand commitment on logo redesign on
brand attitude. To examine this underlying process of
mediated moderation, we conducted the regressions
outlined in Muller et al. (2005). The interaction of brand
commitment and logo condition had a significant effect on
brand attitude (t ¼ 214:31, p , 0:01), as indicated earlier. In
the second regression, the interaction had a significant effect
on logo evaluation (t ¼ 2 17:71, p , 0:01). Importantly, in
the third regression, the effect of the interaction on brand
attitude was reduced (t ¼ 23:24, p , 0:01), and the effect of
logo evaluation was significant (t ¼ 6:21, p , 0:01). The
interaction of logo evaluation and brand commitment was
also significant (t ¼ 21:97, p ¼ 0:05). These results indicate
that logo evaluation mediates the moderating effect of brand
commitment on logo redesign on brand attitude, supporting
H2.
General discussion
Summary of results
Consumers who are strongly committed to a brand evaluate
logo shape redesign more negatively and have a lower brand
attitude. This effect occurs even after controlling for pre-
exposure brand attitude. Thus, the results presented here are
a very conservative test of our hypotheses, as we fully control
for preexisting brand attitude. Perhaps surprisingly, those
with weak brand commitment have more positive brand
Table II Moderating impact of brand commitment on the effect of degree of logo-redesign on post-exposure brand attitude
Independent variables DF Mean square
F
-value
p
-value
Brand commitment 1 233.48 173.23 , 0.01
Degree of logo redesign 2 63.86 25.74 , 0.01
Brand commitment 3 degree of change 2 57.46 42.63 , 0.01
Brand 1 0.00 0.00 0.96
Ownership 1 0.90 0.67 0.41
Gender 1 1.58 1.17 0.28
Age 1 0.44 0.33 0.57
Pre-exposure brand attitude 1 281.74 209.04 , 0.01
Notes:
F
(10, 621) ¼ 50.73;
R
2
¼ 44.9 percent
Figure 2 Interaction of brand commitment and degree of change
condition on post-exposure brand attitude
Do logo redesigns help or hurt your brand?
Michael F. Walsh, Karen Page Winterich and Vikas Mittal
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 19 · Number 2 · 2010 · 76 84
80
attitudes toward the brand after they view a redesigned logo.
Strongly committed consumers have significantly lower brand
attitude than weakly committed consumers in both the
moderate- and considerable-change conditions, but no
difference is noticed in brand attitude when strongly
committed consumers are exposed to the original, no-
change brand logo.
Mediation analysis shows that evaluations of the logo itself
partly drive brand attitude changes. The partial mediation
through logo evaluation implies that changing the logo has
broader consequences that affect brand attitude. In other
words, logo evaluation is only one possible mediating
mechanism.
Although brand attitude between strong, moderate, and
weakly committed respondents moves in the hypothesized
direction (i.e. respondents’ brand attitude decreases for the
strongly committed and increases for the weakly committed),
it is counterintuitive for the initial brand attitude scores to be
lower for strongly committed respondents compared with
weakly committed respondents. Our study shows that brand
commitment and brand attitude, while closely related, are
separate constructs measuring different phenomena.
Theoretical implications
This research recognizes and demonstrates that changes in
visual design elements of a brand (i.e. logo) transfer
meaningfully to the brand (Henderson and Cote, 1998;
Henderson et al., 2004). Looking at Figure 2, one can see that
the effect sizes are considerable and managerially relevant.
Furthermore, the impact is mediated not just through logo
evaluation, but also through a larger set of associations triggered
in response to logo redesign. Identifying these additional
mediators would be a useful direction for research. Also useful
would be to vary other design elements beyond roundedness to
examine whether similar conclusions can be drawn.
Implications for managers
Currently, most companies use a mass approach when they
change their logos (Keller, 1998, 2000). Worse yet, most
companies presume that their most precious customers
those having strong brand commitment will be more
accommodating to changes (Keller, 1998, 2000). Our results
show this is likely a mistaken assumption one that can
alienate the core, the most committed of a brand’s customers.
In contrast, weakly committed consumers respond positively
to logo redesign. Naturally, a more nuanced approach is
needed to ensure that logo redesigns appeal to both groups.
One strategy may be to manage the reactions and expectations
of strongly committed consumers by actively soliciting their
input and perhaps prenotifying them before the changes are
revealed to the broader public. Giving the strongly committed
such a feeling of being an “insider” may strengthen their self-
brand connection and mitigate the potentially negative effects
of logo redesign. For example, Apple Computer failed to
explicitly announce their logo change; the redesign simply
appeared on products, packaging, and advertising. Possibly
the negative responses were because Apple’s new logo
surprised and disappointed their strongly committed
customers, who would have expected to know of such a
change in advance. Investigating this ameliorative strategy in
an empirical study would be a useful contribution to
managerial practice.
Limitations
The experimental design, used to establishcausality,
necessitated tradeoffs between internal and external validity.
First, respondents were asked to evaluate logos in a vacuum,
which does not represent reality. In one sense this may have
heighten their awareness of the changed logo. However, they
saw the redesigned logo only once, and not repeatedly, which
is likely to be the case in real life. Second, only a single design
dimension (roundedness) was evaluated, though logos
redesigns are more likely to be multidimensional. Third, the
changes in our logos were not extreme. Extreme changes to
brand logos may elicit strong positive or negative responses
from consumers regardless of brand commitment. To alleviate
these limitations, additional studies could be designed that
address these issues, while also testing additional theoretical
issues outlined above. We hope that our paper provides some
direction in that regard.
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About the authors
Michael F. Walsh is Assistant Professor of Marketing in the
College of Business and Economics at West Virginia
University. He received his doctorate from the University of
Pittsburgh. He teaches courses in the areas of integrated
marketing communications and services marketing. His
research interests include consumer resistance to change
and marketing and public policy. He has published in the
Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Journal of
Travel and Tourism Marketing and the Journal of Community
Development and presented at a variety of conferences
including the Association for Consumer Research, the
American Marketing Association and the National
Association of Welfare Statistics. Michael F. Walsh is the
corresponding author and can be contacted at:
michael.walsh@mail.wvu.edu
Karen Page Winterich is an Assistant Professor of
Marketing at the Mays School of Business at Texas A & M
University and received her PhD from the University of
Pittsburgh. She conducts research in the area of consumer
behavior, with specific interests in the effects of consumer
identities and emotions on consumer judgments. Her research
focuses on examining the effect of cultural and moral
identities on charitable giving and brand evaluations as well
as the impact of emotions on consumer decisions and
consumption. Her research has been published in the Journal
of Consumer Research and presented at various conferences,
including the Association for Consumer Research, Society for
Consumer Psychology, American Marketing Association, and
Marketing Science.
Vikas Mittal is the J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing
at the Jones Graduate School of Management. He holds a
Do logo redesigns help or hurt your brand?
Michael F. Walsh, Karen Page Winterich and Vikas Mittal
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 19 · Number 2 · 2010 · 76 84
82
Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of
Michigan and a PhD in Management from Temple
University. Before joining Rice, he was on the faculty at the
Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of
Pittsburgh and the Kellogg Graduate School at Northwestern
University. His publications have appeared in leading
marketing journals such as the Journal of Consumer Research,
Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, and
Marketing Science. In 2006 he was awarded the William
F. O’Dell Award for making the most significant, long-term
contribution to the theory, methodology, and practice of
marketing.
Executive summary and implications for
managers and executives
This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives
a rapid appreciation of the content of the article. Those with a
particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in
toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the
research undertaken and its results to get the full benefit of the
material present.
That humans tend to respond more to images than to words
makes a brand’s logo one of its most important elements.
Logos have a key function in communicating the brand
through a range of channels that include packaging,
promotional materials, advertising, uniforms and business
stationery. Recognition of its importance has led to a growing
number of firms paying greater attention to the design of
logos and other visual brand elements.
Issues to consider
Considerable expense is typically involved in redesigning
brand logos and each year one in every 50 companies will
undertake this process. Such organizations obviously need to
ascertain consumer response to this sizeable investment, yet
research in this area remains somewhat limited.
Scholars have produced a “systematic typology” with which
to analyze a logo’s visual characteristics that include its
proportion, shape, naturalness and sophistication among
other things. Investigations into the impact of logo colors
found that different countries attach comparable meanings to
some combinations, whereas connotations for other colors
may be more culturally specific.
How product shape influences perception has been
explored within collectivist and individualistic cultures.
Research has found positivity among consumers in China
and Singapore towards natural and harmonious logo designs.
In Western cultures, logos of a more abstract and
asymmetrical nature were favored. Evidence also exists that
people clearly distinguish between angular and rounded
versions of the same shape.
A common finding in several studies is the significance of
shape. Specifically, roundedness was a key factor of logos
perceived to be natural, friendly and harmonious. The
apparent significance of this design feature has prompted
numerous firms to opt for more curved styles of logo and
practitioners believe this particular trend will persist. For
sharp or pointed shapes, vigor, strength and robustness are
more common associations.
To date, the impact of logo changes on consumer attitude
and evaluation has received little attention from researchers. It
is supposed that the degree of change may be significant in
this respect. Any impact may likewise depend on the
individual’s level of commitment to the brand in question.
This concept has been widely studied and it is assumed that
commitment prompts consumers to perceive strong links
between themselves and the brand. A likely consequence of
this is that visual stimulants like brand logos will function
differently to such consumers than to those whose
commitment is significantly lower or non-existent. Strongly
committed individuals view the logo as an integral part of
their connection to the brand and any changes can be
resented. A redesigned logo may conflict with the perceived
accord between brand and self and induce some re-evaluation
of the partnership. The likelihood is that these consumers will
negatively evaluate alterations to the logo shape and this will
weaken their attitude towards the brand.
On the other hand, the novelty of a changed shape is more
likely to be viewed positively by those with low brand
commitment. Such consumers will be more upbeat about the
brand when the logo change is greater.
Study and findings
Walsh et al. explore these issues in a survey of undergraduates
from a large university in the United States. The average age
of the 632 respondents was 21.86 years and males and
females were almost equally represented. However, neither
age nor gender was subsequently found to be a significant
factor.
Adidas and Nike training shoes were selected for analysis
because of the relevance of these brands to the study sample.
Along with the existing logos, two redesigned versions for
each brand were produced by a graphic designer. All
participants were asked to indicate their level of brand
commitment and brand attitude and were shown the base
logo. Following this, each was exposed to one of three logos
indicating no change of shape, moderate change or
considerable change before completing another brand
attitude scale.
Results showed:
.
exposure to unchanged and moderately changed logos did
not significantly impact on brand attitude for strongly
committed consumers;
.
strongly committed consumers indicated a weakened
brand attitude when the logo was changed considerably;
.
brand attitude among consumers with low brand
commitment became stronger as the extent of logo
redesign increased;
.
in the no change condition, brand attitude was notably
higher for moderately committed consumers than for
those with either strong or weak commitment;
.
when moderate or considerable logo change occurred,
brand attitude was significantly lower among strongly
committed respondents than among those with moderate
or low commitment; and
.
consumer evaluation of the new logo partially moderates
the impact of brand commitment and logo shape redesign
on brand attitude.
Do logo redesigns help or hurt your brand?
Michael F. Walsh, Karen Page Winterich and Vikas Mittal
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 19 · Number 2 · 2010 · 76 84
83
Marketing suggestions and fur ther research
In respect of the latter finding, the authors suggest that factors in
addition to logo change may also serve to mediate the effect on
brand attitude. Further study to identify these mediators is
suggested. The multidimensional nature of logo redesign is
pointed out and researchers could investigate whether other
design elements have a similar impact to roundness. Analyzing
consumer response to extreme logo changes regardless of brand
commitment is also worthy of consideration.
Analysts have shown that a “mass approach” to logo
redesign is mistakenly adopted by the majority of
organizations. Potentially even more damaging is the
assumption among many that the changes will be embraced
by customers showing strong commitment to the brand.
Based on the evidence here, Walsh et al. recommend a “more
nuanced approach” to logo redesign in order to maximize the
appeal to both strongly and weakly committed groups
Another idea is to seek opinions and input from strongly
committed customers prior to revealing the changes more
widely. Granting special status to such individuals may
alleviate any negative responses to the new logo and could
even help reinforce self-brand relations.
(A pre
´
cis of the article “Do logo redesigns help or hunt your brand?
The role of brand commitment”. Supplied by Marketing
Consultants for Emerald.)
Do logo redesigns help or hurt your brand?
Michael F. Walsh, Karen Page Winterich and Vikas Mittal
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 19 · Number 2 · 2010 · 76 84
84
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... A possible explanation for such different reactions to redesigned logos "may be related to the fans' different levels of team identification" (Ahn et al., 2012: 13). Identification levels can classify fans: high, medium, low-those with low team identification may react differently, and therefore changing the logo could attract lower levels of loyal fans (Ahn et al., 2012;Walsh et al., 2010;. Previous studies have reported positive and negative results related to attitudes towards the sports product/organization. Funk and James (2001; referred to the Psychological Continuum Model (PCM) when suggesting that fans in the stage of allegiance are more likely to resist change as those fans possess stronger connections with teams and properties (venue, coach, players, etc.). ...
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